Buyers Inch Closer To An Integrated Upfront, But Challenges Remain

Forward-thinking marketing organizations want to integrate digital and OTT media plans with upfront sponsorships and commitments. But doing so isn’t always black and white.

Citi, for instance, integrates addressable TV planners with those who focus on traditional upfront commitments or digital video.

“Instead of looking just at TV, we’re going to ask more of our core partners involved in the upfront,” said Christine DiLandro, head of media and integrated marketing for Citi, at Videology’s Full Frontal summit on Wednesday.

“In addition to our linear TV, we’re thinking about what are the fluidity deals we can drive in tier-one digital video.”

Unfortunately, inventory and data aren’t always packaged the way advertisers would like to buy, despite teams’ internal advancements.

Lack of complete measurement, for instance, stymies buyers’ efforts to create a holistic TV plan or makes it difficult to gauge lost linear viewership recouped by mobile or over-the-top.

Sometimes, buyers create their own workarounds, said Bruce Dincin, senior director of marketing and media strategy for Choice Hotels. 

The hotelier used to buy on 15 channels and now buys to the tune of 80, Dincin said, so it focuses less on the upfront and more on vendors who can help it reconcile reach with incremental ROI.

“Right now, it’s an efficiency play, but we’re improving precision by layering in more first-party data,” Dincin said.

TV advertisers also have trouble buying audiences in a comparable way across networks. Broadcasters such as Turner, NBC, ABC, Cablevision and Fox all offer different audience indexing platforms.

Fox, for example, is aware of these problems, but it’s difficult for different networks to align themselves.

“What’s been difficult for clients is there’s different processes, data sets and definitions of a target [audience] network by network,” acknowledged Audrey Steele, EVP of sales insights and strategy for Fox Networks.

This lack of interoperability is “a major impediment” that keeps data-driven buying from scaling across networks.

Yet, both buy and sell sides agree that audience data as part of the upfront pitch isn’t dying anytime soon – as some predicted it might.

“It is absolutely true that a strong marketplace and inertia in the upfront makes the need to throw things at a wall and see what sticks [with alternative currencies] less pronounced,” Steele said. “The ways of doing business in the upfront are very entrenched, but every year for the last three years has been the year of data and that will continue.”

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